written by James Tealy
The number of new worship songs being released these days is staggering. As songwriters, we all long to write songs that are noticed, used, and enjoyed by a wider audience, but how can our songs stand out in such a crowded market? Here are 5 questions to ask about that new worship song you’re writing:
1. Is it true? Is your song honest? Is it a true expression of your personal experience? Does the line “God, I always feel You there when I’m hurting” express your true experience? If you don’t believe what you’re writing, no one else will either. Don’t try and sell us false platitudes and niceties. Give us something true and then invite us to sing along.
2. Is it biblical? There are too many worship songs that sound good but aren’t actually biblical. If you think you’re quoting scripture, look up the reference and make sure you’re not putting words in God’s mouth. Get theological input from trusted pastors. You might mean something that is not actually being communicated clearly in your lyrics.
3. Is it singable? Congregational singing is a tricky business. Can a room full of non-musicians sing the song you’re writing? You might sound great performing this in front of people but can your church sing along? The new hybrid of worship-artists often write songs that they sound great performing but your congregation will have difficulty singing. A TOTAL melodic range of an octave or less is a good starting point. Writing a captivating melody in an octave or less that is easily singable by a crowd is a challenge.
4. Is it fresh? Over thousands of years of recorded history, surely millions of songs have been written to God or about God. If you could listen through those songs you would be forced to ask, “Does my song say anything new or interesting?” You will not say something that no one has ever said before, but can you find a new window into an timeless idea? Tired cliches and the same trite phrases are repeated in worship song after worship song. Find fresh ways for the church to experience the timeless truths of the gospel and we will gladly raise our hands and sing along with you.
5. Is it excellent? Surely an excellent God deserves excellent work from His children. We say, “That’ll do,” way too often as Christian craftsmen. Is it beautiful? Is it thoughtful? I have heard many well-meaning Christian songwriters tell the same “God gave me this song” story, only to perform a cliche and poorly crafted song. If God has inspired you to write a song, then follow Paul’s advice in Colossians 3:16-17, 23; and do the difficult work of crafting that song to richly reflect God’s glory. Dig deeper. Re-write it one more time. Find a richer metaphor. Sing a more interesting interval. The One Most High God deserves no less.
James Tealy is a Songwriting Lecturer for the Mike Curb College of Entertainment & Music Business at Belmont University (Nashville, TN). He has penned chart topping singles for Kari Jobe, Josh Wilson, Unspoken, Lauren Daigle, and many others.